« Rick Madonik looks back at 2011 | Main | Tara Walton's best of 2011 »


Battling the light at Casa Loma

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer

The say that Casa Loma might be haunted, but last month the only demon I battled in the Castle on Spadina was the one that every photographer fears, the absence of light.

The challenges faced while doing a history piece on Casa Loma's organ during the screening of a silent film were daunting!

During the 100 minutes of the show, I had to shoot video, stills and recorded audio just in case.

I didn't use a tripod, because I only had a limited amount of time and did not want to waste time setting up and tearing down. 

The next performances on the organ will be a concert by Simon Gledhill on March 6, 2012 and a silent movie screening of the 1928 French silent classic "The Italian Straw Hat" on April 2, 2012.

John Struve tunes the 1,400 pipes that make up the Wurlitzer Organ at Casa Loma by gently tapping little plunger wires. The Toronto Theatre Organ Society performs on the pipe organ accompanying the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Casa Loma.

Each of the pipes is tuned by gently tapping up or down little plunger wires. 

Under the Great Hall in a room behind the gift shop sits the relay room where all the information from the organ is translated to the pipes. 

The old theatre organ has sound effects that lend themselves to silent movies, including hooves, door bell and of course, Oogah!

The second and third floors of Casa Loma house the pipes from the organ behind some ornamental pipes.

The consol shell is originally from the organ that was in the Capitol Theatre in Montreal. Only two organs in Canadian theatres still exist.

It's fun and a little spooky working in the dark at Casa Loma.

Organist John Lauter rehearses along with the Silent Short film "The Hunter" before the doors open in the Great Hall. I was feeling really great about the shoot until I realized that the lights would be off for the actual performance. That scared me more than any ghost that might be lurking in the halls.

With most of the light shut off for the movies, the halls of Casa Loma seem spooky. Especially with the Toronto Theatre Organ Society performing on the pipe organ accompanying the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

John Lauter gives silent movie fans a brief history of the Casa Loma organ and the history of music accompanying silent films. 

John Lauter accompanies the 1920 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on the  Casa Loma organ. The only light available was from the screen and the minimal light inside the consol.

Thankfully the lights of the city reflecting off low clouds that blanketed the city gave me some window detail.

In the 1920's John Barrymore in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" debuted at the Regent Theatre in Toronto.

"If the crowd forgets about me, then I know I've done my job, says John Lauter as accompanies the John Barrymore in 1920s "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on the  Casa Loma organ. The crowd was challenging to capture. I was shooting video, recording audio and did not want to carry an array of equipment and did not have the proper mount for my tripod. So everything was shot handheld.

My favourite from the night. In the Great Hall, John Lauter accompanies the John Barrymore in 1920s "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on the Casa Loma organ. The Toronto Theatre Organ Society performs on the pipe organ accompanying the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


Hear the organ in the video below,






TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Battling the light at Casa Loma:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.